Cholesterol Control and Heart Health


Americans have been hearing about the evils of cholesterol for at least 60 years. In the early 1960s, the American Heart Association (AHA) warned people that saturated fat was the culprit behind elevated cholesterol levels. We were told that cholesterol in general, and "bad" LDL cholesterol in particular, would clog our arteries and that would lead to heart attacks. If we would just stop eating eggs, red meat, butter, cheese and other full-fat dairy products we would reduce our risks of cardiovascular disease. 

For decades, cardiologists and nutrition experts encouraged their patients to substitute margarine for butter. Anyone who regularly consumed eggs for breakfast would have been told that this was risky business. That was because the yolks were high in cholesterol.

Americans were advised that a heart healthy breakfast would include pancakes or waffles with margarine and syrup. No cholesterol or saturated fat! Just lots of carbs, which were considered heart healthy. Cereal was recommended as a much better choice than eggs. No matter that many of our favorite cereals were loaded with sugar. If people used skim milk on their cereal, they got a pat on the head and a thumbs up. Yogurt was OK, as long as it was no-fat or low-fat yogurt, which generally meant that there would be a generous dollop of fruit jam at the bottom of the carton. 

Nuts were verboten. They were high in fat and we were repeatedly told that fat was the enemy. Other foods on the no-no list included avocados (also too high in fat) and shrimp (high in cholesterol). We could go on, but by now you get the drift. The bottom line was: fat would make you fat and clog your coronary arteries. 


Heart disease is still the number one killer in America today, despite the billions spent annually on cholesterol-lowering drugs. More than 800,000 people will have a heart attack this year–and over 650,000 will die from a “coronary event.” That’s about one every minute. And nearly half of all heart attack sufferers have normal cholesterol levels.

Some Risk Factors

  • High level of C-reactive protein (CRP)
  • Smoking
  • Hostility or anger
  • High LDL cholesterol
  • Low HDL cholesterol
  • High level of very low-density (VLDL) cholesterol
  • High triglycerides
  • Elevated lipoprotein (a) known as Lp(a)
  • Being overweight
  • High homocysteine
  • Too much iron
  • High blood pressure
  • Lack of physical activity
  • Genes & family history
  • Diabetes & insulin resistance
  • High uric acid level
  • Depression
  • Lack of a social network
  • Socio-economic status
  • Stress & anxiety
  • Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT)

Drugs for Heart Health and Lower Cholesterol

While we always advocate trying nondrug approaches first—the risk of side effects, interactions, complications, and complacency are much lower when we don’t depend on pharmaceuticals to do our bidding for us—sometimes we all need a little bit of extra help. This is also true when it comes to protecting the heart. And our first drug of choice for cardiovascular fitness and protection is aspirin.

Laurel Effel Shares Her Non-Drug Approach

Laura Effel’s strategy for lowering her LDL cholesterol 44 points in 5 weeks

One of the listeners to our radio show, Laura Effel, called and later wrote in to us to tell us the remarkable story of how she used dietary changes to bring down her bad LDL cholesterol, and to keep it down.

Laura didn’t want to take the Zocor her doctor had prescribed, as she’d heard some reports of people having bad reactions to statins, like muscle weakness. So with the help of a food scientist and the “skeptical” go-ahead from her doctor, she radically and permanently changed her diet. Here’s what she did:

  • Avoided blood-sugar spikes
  • Eliminated refined carbs
  • Ate a high-protein breakfast
  • Substituted olive oil for other fats
  • Added soluble fiber to meals other than breakfast
  • Focused on fish
  • Drank green tea
  • Consumed antioxidants
  • Stopped eating before bed

After following this new dietary regimen, Laura’s cholesterol not only dropped 44 points in five weeks, it continued to go down. We heard from her three months later, and her LDL had gone down a total of 70 points from its peak of 155.

This approach may not have the same dramatic effect for everyone as it did for Laura, but it certainly can’t hurt to try it!

Publication Information

Published on: November 8th, 2019 | Last Updated: April 7th, 2023
Publisher: The People's Pharmacy

© 2023 The People's Pharmacy

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